Battle Over Illinois Workers’ Comp Ends as Legislation Sent to Governor

In the final hours of the spring legislative session, the Illinois House passed legislation overhauling Illinois' workers' compensation system.

Reform of Illinois' workers' compensation system had been an issue of debate for quite some time. After passing in the Senate, the workers compensation package initially failed in the House by a 55-39 vote, but after significant political lobbying the measure surprisingly passed 62-43.

The Background of the Controversy

For years, businesses have lamented the stifling effect they believe Illinois' expensive workers' compensation setup is having on local economic growth. Illinois has the second highest costs for treating injured employees in the country, and according to some, this means many businesses are choosing to create jobs elsewhere.

Businesses wanted to see a crackdown on workers' comp fraud and abuse, as well as more stringent requirements for proving an injury actually occurred on the job. Employers also wanted caps put in place regarding how long workers could receive benefits based on their pay, and safeguards in the system to prevent patients from seeking out doctors who would give the most favorable diagnoses for workers' comp claims.

Many lawmakers and labor leaders were concerned about the negative effects that some of these changes would have on those the system was designed to protect: workers injured on the job. Labor groups placed some of the blame for high workers' compensation costs on employers who waste resources fighting legitimate claims; they did not want to create additional unfair impediments in collecting benefits for those injured at work. Furthermore, any slash in benefits simply to pad the bottom line of businesses was unacceptable to those in the labor camp.

Likely Changes

If Governor Quinn signs the workers compensation reform bill, as he is expected to do, there will be significant changes to the current system. One major change is a 30 percent reduction in the fees companies are required to pay to physicians. This is expected to save businesses an estimated $500-$700 million dollars.

Other changes include: developing a workers' compensation claim medical network, placing the burden of proof on workers instead of employers regarding whether drugs or alcohol factored into workplace accidents, and cutting the period of eligibility for carpal tunnel syndrome from 40 to 28 weeks.

If You Have Been Injured

It remains to be seen how recent reforms will impact the Illinois workers' compensation system as a whole, and what effect any modifications will have on injured employees.

If you have been injured on the job, contact an attorney with experience in workers' compensation claims. Your attorney will be able to help you navigate any new modifications in the system, and will work to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.